By DAVID VANTRESS
THE GOSHEN NEWS
2011-12 was a season of transition for the Goshen College women’s basketball team: The Maple Leafs, under new coach Stephanie Miller, went just 3-27 overall (0-18 in what was then known as the Mid-Central Collegiate Conferece, now the Crossroads League).
But from those travails, the Maple Leaf women bonded and learned, and with some new faces, are ready to take a step forward in 2012-13.
The Maple Leafs return seven letterwinners and two starters off last year’s team: sophomore Jaime Stack, a Fairfield product (10.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and senior Sam Hawk (8.8 ppg., 5.2 rpg).
Miller said a key area of improvement for her team in 2012-13 is showing poise under pressure.
“That was something we didn’t do very well last season,” Miller said. “That comes with experience.”
The Maple Leafs have some experience this season, but they also have some younger players who will need to get that valuable game experience.
Key additions to the Maple Leaf roster this season include 6-0 senior guard Mary Hathaway, a transfer from NCAA Division I Winthrop University in South Carolina; 5-6 freshman guard Liz Trottas out of Parchment High School in Parchment, Mich.; 5-8 freshman guard Tyra Carver out of Kalamazoo Central High School in Kalamazoo, Mich.; and 5-10 freshman forward Jo’Mani Thomas of Fort Wayne South Side.
Miller is especially excited about the addition of Hathaway, who has the size and athleticism to be an impact player right away in Goshen. Miller had known Hathaway from her prior employment with McCracken Basketball Camps, and when Hathaway’s situation changed and she was looking to transfer, Miller offered her an oportunity to come to Goshen.
Thomas, meanwhile, comes from a South Side program that was ranked No. 1 for 10 weeks last season. The Archers wenrt 22-2 and were sectional champions in Sectional 4A-6, falling to Fort Wayne Snider, 68-67 in the regional semifinals.
Thomas played in the “Border Wars” series last season, helping Indiana top Ohio with 13 points.
With the addition of new players, Miller is pleased to have a good core back, especially Hawk and Stack,.
“Sam is our defensive anchor,” Miller said. “She’s a great leader for us, and she’s going to give us 30-plus minutes a night.”
Stack, meanwhile, showed great versatility in her freshman season. Also a volleyball player for the Maple Leafs, Stack is the Maple Leafs’ leading returning scorer and rebounder, and plays much taller than her 5-6 height.
Hawk said she’s ready to be a senior leader, and excited about the upcoming season.
“They key is keeping everyone together,” Hawk said.
The Maple Leafs can take some motivation from the Crossroads League preseason poll: The conference coaches picked the Maple Leafs 10th — dead last.
Hawk said she and her teammates have something to prove. They can start that process next Friday night when they open the 2012-13 regular season on the road at Holy Cross College in South Bend.
Playing a complete game will be critical for the Maple Leafs to make some progress and get more wins in 2012-13, Hawk said.
“We didn’t do a very good job of putting together two halves of basketball last season,” Hawk said. “We need to change that this season.”
Other Maple Leafs include senior guard Jenna Rusmisel (5-7, East Noble High School); sophomore guard Avery Bichoff (5-5, Summerfield High School, Petersburg, Mich.); freshman forward Abby Short (5-11, Archbold High School, Archbold, Ohio; senior guard Paige Davis (5-5, Triton High School, Bourbon, Ind.); senior guard/forward Bethany Lemler (5-7, Triton High School, Bourbon, Ind.); and sophomore forward Megan Strock (5-7, Eastside High School, Butler, Ind.).